44th Annual Fire, Rescue and EMS College Begins March 17

The McDowell Fire, Rescue and EMS College, sponsored by McDowell Technical Community College and a host of agency partners, will be back next weekend for its 44th year, as faithful and strong as ever, to train those who offer aide, comfort and protection to the rest of us when tragedy strikes. More importantly, leaders of the Fire, Rescue and EMS College continue to keep their finger on the pulse of training needs across the state and provide both basic and advanced coursework and certification exams, as well as classes that offer cutting-edge best practices in each of the disciplines supported by the college.

44th Annual Fire and Rescue College

This year, for example, Director Ron Morgan and his colleagues are offering the first Swift Water Boat Class aimed at local emergency responders in the state of North Carolina. Just a few years ago, the college was one of the few in the state to offer Swift Water Rescue classes, but this new offering takes that training to a new level, training personnel to use boat rescue in swift water situations, whether on a river, in mass flooding, or other similar situations.

“Our strong partnerships are key to providing quality training to our fire, rescue and EMS community,” said Dr. Brian S. Merritt, MTCC President. “Pulling off a weekend-long “college” like this is no easy feat, and we appreciate Ron’s leadership and all of our partners who are dedicated to keeping our community, region, and state safe and well.”

Classes will begin on March 17th in some areas and continue through March 20th, with the largest number of classes and participants expected on Saturday and Sunday, the 19th and 20th.  For the second year in a row, almost all classes will be held on the campus at McDowell Technical Community College, with additional classes being offered at Nebo, Marion, Glenwood, Sugar Hill Fire Departments, as well as McDowell Rescue Squad.

For hands-on elements, some classes will move to other sites throughout McDowell County to complete their training. Students in Extrication classes, for example, will meet at T & D Wrecker Service to practice extricating accident victims from wrecked vehicles, and Wilderness Rescue students will spend one overnight practicing rescue in a heavily wooded area near the campus, completing a total of 60 hours of training in just 4 days. With special permission from the state, other groups will convene at the new state recreational area being constructed at Bobs Creek, which has not yet opened to the public. There they will practice use of ATV’s in rescue situations, use of technical ropes in rescue and Wilderness Medicine.

As in past years, live burns will be offered at the Fire Training Grounds in Marion, off of Old Hwy 10 West, utilizing a specialized “burn building,” as well as large propane tanks and flammable liquids pit. Basic Engine Company classes will provide hands-on training at this location.

Approximately 130 instructors, many of whom are experts in their field, will teach classes in basic fire and rescue techniques, as well as advanced classes in subjects like arson investigation, clandestine drug labs, and flammable liquids.  These classes generally fall into three basic categories: rescue (such as land search, rapelling, vehicle rescue, and vehicle extrication), emergency medical services (including aeromedicine) and firefighting (such as pumps, positive pressure ventilation, confined space, flammable liquids, ladders, forcible entry, ventilation, structural firefighting and liquid propane gas).

Back by popular demand, vendors will offer a variety of fire and rescue equipment, clothing, and other items of interest to firefighters and rescue personnel and their families. They will be co-located with food vendors in a central location on the McDowell Tech campus.

“Besides offering high-quality training for our emergency services personnel, the Fire, Rescue and EMS College has a strong, positive impact on the local economy with hundreds of trainees, staff and often their families descending on the county, staying in local hotels, eating in local restaurants, and shopping at local retail establishments over the four-day weekend,” said Stacy Buff, Dean of Career and Technical Education at McDowell Tech. “In addition, having training here allows local firefighters, rescue volunteers and EMS personnel to take selected training without having to travel to other areas of the state and incurring substantial travel and hotel costs to their local departments.”

“The job of those who put their lives on the line each and every day to save lives, protect and preserve property and rescue those in harm’s way is one we too often take for granted. We are proud to be partners in public safety,” said Merritt, MTCC President. “It is the College’s mission to serve our county, region, and state with quality workforce training, and the long-standing tradition of the McDowell Fire, Rescue and EMS College is one we can proudly say serves our community well.”

The Fire, Rescue and EMS College is co-sponsored by MTCC and the McDowell County Fire and Rescue Association, with assistance from the McDowell County Emergency Management Agency, the McDowell County Fire Commission, local fire departments and the McDowell County Rescue Association.